Hey guys… I keep saying ‘sorry it’s been a while’ and then realize that the next time I post, it’s also been long, maybe an even longer while (soz)… I’ve been so busy with uni performances and work that I have had 0 time for myself but I’m loving it!
I thought that now getting nearer to the Christmas season, I would write a post that links to my first story, about how you handle Christmas with an Eating Disorder (or at least how I have). The past 2/3 years at Christmas I have still found it hard and felt a lot of the aftermath of Anorexia at big family meals. Obviously not wanting to eat and not being able to eat in front of people when you have an eating disorder, can make one of the funnest holidays feel like the worst. In this post, I wanna share with everyone how it felt and how I handled it, in the hope that I can help at least 1 person feel okay this year.
So before we start, lets me just remind you of the BEAT definition and symptoms of an eating disorder (there are so many different types of Eating disorders, but these are just a few).
“Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that involve disordered eating behavior. This might mean limiting the amount of food eaten, eating very large quantities of food at once, getting rid of food eaten through unhealthy means or a combination of these behaviors. It’s important to remember that eating disorders are not all about food itself, but about feelings. Eating disorders include anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder.” https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/types?gclid=CjwKCAiAmb7RBRATEiwA7kS8VJrG0_Zft252oDrdsIJ3Og3Cz3pkfz5K5oDLSvf9EVNmLtwrdMMn_xoClFUQAvD_BwE
Commonly mistaken for someone who just ‘doesn’t eat,’ Eating disorders are defined by a lot more than just ‘not eating’ and play a part in your psychological mind too (hence why 3 or 4 years down the line, I still struggle sometimes).
Now looking at Christmas! It’s supposed to be one of the most festive, fun times of the year where everyone comes together and enjoys presents, food and drinks. This is an Anorexic’s worst nightmare, and it was mine. I love Christmas but I couldn’t deal with all the constant comments on my weight, how much or how little I’m eating, the glares at how thin my legs or my arms were, and the anxiety I had around the food I was eating that went hand in hand with the feeling of being judged on my choice of food and quantity.
The constant comments was one of my biggest issues to overcome. People would look at my food and ask ‘is that all you’re having’, ‘are you sure you don’t want anymore’? And it drove me insane. I just wanted to eat and enjoy the one time I allowed myself to eat properly without anyone bothering or watching me. Being conscious of what I was eating, I took the rare decision to allow myself the Christmas meal, and it just worked against me and ‘Anorexia’ took over. Another thing about the comments that I found hard to take was what someone would say when I allowed myself to be free with how much food I put on my plate. Sometimes, I would have more than I usually allowed myself to, even though I knew I was gonna feel bad, I wanted to eat. That thought in itself sometimes backfired though. If I took the step to eating more, the comments made would make me feel sick at the thought of much I decided to eat; even just writing this does. I would get things like ‘That was a good amount, do you want anymore?’ or even just glances that showed recognition that I’d eaten more which made me feel disgusting in myself. These glances were some of the worst. I could feel people staring at my legs or my arms and mumbling about them, which made me even more self-conscious than I was already feeling, with the Anorexia, and the thought of being ‘too big’ in my mind.
Looking back at it now, I can see that it wasn’t meant in a spiteful way at all. People that made those comments were just worried, and by seeing someone so thin eat, I assume they get this sense of hope which makes them think that by eating more, it will get better – like a quick solution. Obviously, being the one with the Anorexia, I knew that’s not how it worked, but they wouldn’t know and couldn’t guess such a complicated mind process having not experienced it. That’s the thing with Anorexia, it’s like someone else takes over your body and it fights with the real you in your head who wants to be okay, which makes it very confusing to understand what your thought process is. That’s how it worked with food for me, I knew that deep down, I wanted it but Anorexia didn’t which meant, I didn’t get it.
Another thing that comes with a Christmas meal is the amount of people and the amount of food. Having a thought process that went ‘less is more’ in my head at the time, in all aspects that involved food, I naturally had or picked as little as I could. With Christmas, you have to feed everyone which was my worst nightmare. It was like the food was something I had to eat (all of it) even though it wasn’t for me, because the person inside me wanted it so badly but Anorexia wouldn’t let me have it; kind of like when you really want like, a slice of cake but part of you is telling you shouldn’t have it, except mine was with every kind of food.
The way I handled it was getting involved. Often when people describe the condition, the words ‘control’ and ‘perfectionism’ with food are brought up which is why this might be confusing. An Anorexic tends to want, and finds any way possible to be in full control of what they eat, when they eat it, and how they eat it. What I learned to do for big family meals was use this trait in a way that would help me. I helped out in the kitchen so I knew what was being made so I could relax when eating it – I still do to this day and it’s made me actually really enjoy cooking. It gives you some control but doesn’t have a negative effect, instead it helps you be okay with what you’re eating.
Another way I took ‘control’ was by talking to someone who was at the table with me so I felt at ease when I was eating. Initially, it seems like no one understands what’s going through your head, and you have so much going through it that you can’t explain (I still have days where I feel like this). Looking back now, I can see how much my mum actually did understand, of course not fully because it was happening to me, but she helped me and reassured me that it would be okay, and although people might look or comment, it wasn’t meant in an unkind way. She also knew that by me helping out in the kitchen, put me more at ease when I was eating it, so she let me. Of course, when you’re sick and you want to eat you tend to do it quietly, by yourself, and in your own space. That’s not how family meals work, so I couldn’t do that which meant naturally, there was a sense of anxiety there. Also having had panic attacks (check my recent post where I explain how I deal with that: https://mentalstability.blog/2017/09/21/story-2-panic-attacks-and-anxiety-disorder-whats-that/), it would be easier for me to have one, and so that would make me anxious about that as well as the food. Having told my mum about how I felt, put that at ease because if I felt like I was going to have a panic attack, she would help me.
Another thing I learnt, is that it’s okay to step out of the room, take time for yourself, reassure and remind yourself why you’re taking such a big step; so you know it’s okay and everything will be ok, as long as everything is at your pace.
Finally, try to remember that it’s a fun time of the year, think of all the good things that don’t revolve food, focus on those, and I hope together with those thoughts and my advice above, that Christmas will be ok!
P.S. next post will be about a fun event that a group at my University (@ExebeatsED) held, where we raised money for BEAT – stay tuned X